How to sell an idea to Steve Jobs

Of all the books which have been written about working with Steve Jobs, the best, I think, is Ken Segall’s Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success. Segall worked as a creative director at Chiat Day for much of its long association with Apple, and his book is full of insightful stories about Apple’s famed marketing practices. It’s well written, original and well worth reading.

One of my favorite stories in the book concerns a meeting between Lee Clow, the head of Chiat Day, and Jobs.

Lee Clow – ad man and salesman

Jobs and Clow were reviewing the content for an iMac commercial. Jobs was a fiend for simplicity, but on this occasion, he was convinced that the commercial needed to say four or five things in a thirty-second spot. Clow and the creative team insisted it should say just one thing. But Jobs wasn’t budging.

So finally, Clow tore five sheets of paper from his notepad and crumpled them into  give balls.

“Here, Steve, catch,” said Lee as he tossed a single ball of paper across the table. Steve caught it, no problem, and tossed it back.

“That’s a good ad,” said Lee.

“Now catch this,” he said, as he threw all five paper balls in Steve’s direction. Steve didn’t catch a single one, and they bounced onto the table and floor.

“That’s a bad ad,” said Lee…Steve didn’t exactly break down and pledge never to question us again. However, he did appreciate the point. Lee’s demonstration lightened the tone of the conversation and turned the tide for us. When we left the room, we had the go-ahead for a much simpler ad than the one Steve had in his head at the start.”

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